Showing posts with label Immigrant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Immigrant. Show all posts

03 May 2013

Of Aliens And Citizens

I have a new job! And a fun one, too. The technical college in the area, together with a local literacy organization and a nonprofit agency of the diocese, has received a federal grant to assist permanent residents in becoming US citizens. They need a coordinator to market the program, keep track of the applicant progress data, and run quarterly reports for the government. Who better for the job than your friendly resident alien? Thankfully, the college thought so too.

And so I make the trek south three days a week. It’s a great program and I really enjoy being part of it. Permanent residents who are interested in becoming citizens are offered assistance with filing the naturalization application, English language and US civics classes, and the possibility to practice citizenship interviews, all free of charge. As the coordinator who navigates between the three partners and the applicants, I hope to meet many interesting people on this road to citizenship.

29 July 2011

The Hardest Goodbye

My cousin M. has been on my mind a lot this week. It is his dad, and my uncle, who is dying of pancreatic cancer. My cousin and his family live in Switzerland and have been visiting for the month of July. I saw them earlier this week when Lola and I traveled south for a few days. When M. and I said goodbye, he told me the next time we would see each other the occasion would probably not be a happy one.

M. and his family are leaving today. He has to tell his father goodbye and chances are, he will never see him again. I cannot begin to imagine his sadness. Just thinking about it breaks my heart. Not being there when you want to most is without a doubt one of the hardest things about living thousands of miles away from your family.

It is in my future too.

02 July 2010

Expatriates And Patriots

With the Fourth of July rapidly approaching, the amount of stars and stripes I see is steadily increasing. Almost every blog and magazine I read features the American flag in some way, shape, or form. For me, this is a little foreign. The Dutch are not too big on waving the flag. Sure, during national holidays and world cups, there is quite a bit of red, white, and blue in addition to the orange, but for the most part, you'll find the Dutch flag in a piece of cheese.

Americans are very different in this respect. Displaying the flag is the most visible sign of patriotism. And of that, there is quite a bit. It starts early on in schools with the daily Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. The Dutch are not patriots, we don't display any pride in our heritage or country, a few zealots notwithstanding. We do not stand united. In fact, we are more divided than ever. It makes me very sad.

Where I come from, the saying goes "Just act normal, that's crazy enough." All this patriotism is a bit over the top for me. I have a hard time dressing Lola in an American flag dress, to be honest. Fortunately the dress we received is way too big, so this year I can get by without it. But I do like that on days like the Fourth, the whole country celebrates together, and the emphasis is on American, whether you're Native American, African American, Asian American, Italian American, Irish American, or Dutch American.

I know we are still a long way from universal peace, love, and understanding, in my new country as well as my old. But while the use of the different varieties of Americans may be considered politically correct, it also creates a sense of unity, attainable for every immigrant. The Dutch could learn a thing or two here.

Happy Fourth of July! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

11 March 2009

Always Be Prepared For Tea With The Queen

I can stay! When we came home from Arizona my new permanent resident card, also known as the green card although there is nothing green about it, was waiting for me. We have convinced Immigration Services of my good intentions (or they finally realized the US is NOT the place to be at the moment if you're looking for a job) resulting in the removal of the conditions of my residency. It did not go smoothly, though.

Because we had just gotten married when Ryan filed the petition to import me, my initial green card was only valid for two years. Three months before it expired, I had to send in a new petition to have the conditions removed, along with evidence I entered my marriage in good faith. I figured having a child would be the ultimate proof, so except for the hefty check, all I sent USCIS was a copy of Lola's birth certificate.

Not good enough, as it turned out. They wanted proof of residency, too. My name on the deed to the house, the mortgage, the power bill, the phone bill, etc. All things that were already in place when I moved in with Ryan and therefore in his name only. Great. Two of our friends were kind enough to sign an affidavit, testifying Ryan and I are genuinely in love (they have been inside the barn...) and living together. And that was accepted. I am good to go until 2018. Don't know what happens then.

However. For the next nine years I am stuck with an ID that has the Worst Passport Photo Ever on it, taking over first place from my previous Worst Passport Photo Ever. The one that was on my passport AND my driver's license because I had to replace both at the same time when my purse was stolen. The one that was taken in my platinum blond phase. ("Are we talking Marilyn Monroe here?", Chris, my hairdresser, wanted to know when I asked him if he thought I could get away with that color. I miss Chris. So does my hair.) In addition to being white, my hair was very short and the roots were showing. I did not wear make-up and I was in a foul mood because of the theft and it showed.

I have never been so happy to have my passport expire. The official in charge of renewals totally understood. When the new Dutch driver's license was introduced, I jumped at the chance to replace that one too. Again, nothing but understanding at City Hall. "Is that really you? Would you like us to expedite your request?"

This picture is much, MUCH worse. It was taken mid December when we had just moved into the barn. I was still trying to find a shower routine without a shower. My hair was dirty, I was tired, and again, no make-up. I thought all they wanted was to digitally store my fingerprints. Of course they also wanted my picture. What was I thinking? I am sure in nine years time I will receive equal understanding from USCIS about my relief to be able to replace the card. But until then I am going to have to live with the fact I forgot the first rule of passport photos:

Do your make-up and your hair as if you're having tea with the Queen!

It's going to be a long nine years. And no, you cannot see it. I am NOT going to show this picture unless I absolutely have to.

26 February 2009

Expat And Anthropologist

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of expatriate is: to leave one's native country to live elsewhere. That's me. I have left my native Netherlands to live in the United States of America. I am, technically, an expat.

For me however, the word is synonymous with the superficial, arrogant, British banker or stock broker in South East Asia I once saw in a documentary on expats. He lived like a pig. He asked his maid to iron his clothes naked because "that's how she likes it." She didn't look like she liked it. This inhuman being made my skin crawl. And whenever I hear the word expat, he pops into my head. I therefore always refer to myself as The Dutch Girl, never as an expat.

Besides my negative connotation with the word, I don't feel like an expat either. Most likely because I lived in the United States as a child. I went to an American elementary school, an American junior high school, and for a whole year, I was part of an American family. It may not be in my genes, but there is definitely a little bit of American blood flowing through my veins. And when Ryan and I go shopping together, HE is asked the question: "Where are you from?", not me. Okay, that happened ONCE. But it happened, much to his dismay.

Nonetheless, it's time I face the facts. I look at my surroundings through Dutch glasses. (Proving it immediately, I realized upon rereading this post. The correct English expression is through Dutch eyes. The Dutch use the term glasses.) I compare my new country with my old country all the time. Classic expat behavior. Or is it? I am, after all, an anthropologist too, albeit without degree. I guess I am both. When it directly concerns me, my expat-side surfaces. When it's an observation on American culture, the anthropologist in me sets the tone.

For a while now, I have been thinking about the direction in which to take this blog. It is, first and foremost, a way to bring my daily life back to the people that were a direct part of it, not too long ago. And to include my (new) friends and family that live in different time zones. I do not want to change that. But I do not want to turn it into Lola's blog, either. While she is an adventure of olympic proportions, that is not what I meant when I titled my web log. (It is tempting, though. She is such a funny little person at the moment. Very helpful and loving, yet independent and exploring. Learning new words everyday. "Hoppetee" is the word for today. She loves it, repeats it over and over. But I digress. Focus, Hannes!)

Yesterday, I looked into spreading the word about my blog. I submitted it to a few websites for approval. I was asked under which header to file it. So far I have filed it under Family or Life. But online magazine rack Alltop provided the category Expats (where you can now find me). That got me thinking. I have a little extra to bring to the table here and I should make use of it. And since I did not finish my anthropology thesis, Expats it is!

Hanneke N. - Expat and Anthropologist. Cool business card. It really is a shame about that thesis.

07 February 2009

Who Am I?

Earlier today I went to the bank to make a deposit into my account. It's a joint account, in the names of Ryan J. and Johanna V. N. Johanna V. N. does not exist. The bank knows this. But our checks and my debit card say so anyway.

All my life I have been Hanneke van H. I was never that crazy about Hanneke but it has been a part of me since birth. My mom loves the name. I was named after my paternal grandmother and things could have been much worse. I could have been called Annie.

The Dutch tradition of giving a child a so-called 'calling name' is unknown here. I find that most Americans do not see how Hanneke has its roots in Johanna, my official name. I am not sure why. It seems obvious to me. And if you have no trouble saying Jack to someone named John, or Dick to Richard, why is Hanneke instead of Johanna so strange?

Another problem is the fact that I have two middle names. The second name rarely makes it because most automated systems only allow for one middle name. Sometimes I can squeeze an M in there, mostly I am Johanna A. Americans don't do initials only like the Dutch. They always write your first name in full. I like that.

Of course, I had to go and make things extra complicated when I got married. I hyphenated my name. I opted for Van H. - N. I should have gone for straight up N. Even remaining Van H. would have been easier than adding N. to my name. And not in front of, like the old days. No, I had to be all emancipated and attach it behind Van H. Johanna A.M. Van H. hyphen N. doesn't fit in ANY computer system.

But the greatest difficulty concerning my name is its pronunciation. Whenever I use my supermarket club card, for example, my name is printed on the receipt. The cashiers have been instructed to thank you for your business using your name.

"Thank you, Mrs..." and then it goes quiet. "How do I pronounce your name? Would you like carry-out service?"

I even changed my name on my resume to Johanna N. - Van H. Just to ensure fear of mispronouncing my name does not scare potential employers off. A thoughtful albeit unsuccessful strategy.

Mostly I go by Hanneke N. these days. And that works fine although quite a few people believe my name is Monica. I tried Johanna N. on for size once, but it didn't fit. I answered the phone with it, hoping it was an invitation for a job interview, and my sister burst out laughing on the other end. Haven't done it since. It just doesn't roll off the tongue right.

I did attempt to change my name. I went to the Social Security Office to request an official change of name. They cannot help me. Because I am a resident, not a citizen, Homeland Security has to okay it first. And since Homeland Security is not even convinced I entered my marriage in good faith - evidently having a child does not count as proof - I am not going to bother with a name change. I am too busy gathering evidence of my legitimacy.

Maybe that's the reason they are requiring additional documentation. I didn't lose Van H. and that caused suspicion. Or perhaps just confusion.